Journalism Workshops


Posts tagged with "journalism"

Oct 7

Building the new


As we began to design and architect the new site in fall of last year, we knew that we had a unique challenge and opportunity – to design and build a news site from scratch in 2011 with all the technologies available today.

We set out to understand what readers wanted most from a new experience, with a process based on research, focus groups and user testing.

What they told us has guided us to create what we believe is a highly usable, readable and journalistically-focused experience.

I had recently arrived in August from a year-long assignment in the New York Times Company as SVP for product management at, a site with almost a billion page views a month, largely driven by searches on Google. It was our job to optimize the product for each and every visitor coming over from Google.

As a user of multiple devices – laptops, iphone, iPad and any others I could get my hands on – I became obsessed with the idea of automatically delivering the perfect layout for each user based on the device they were using at the time.

As I arrived at The Boston Globe in August, we all became intrigued by really pushing the envelope with this concept.

Then we met Todd Parker and Patty Toland at The Filament Group in Boston, whose team had popularized the concept of Progressive Enhancement (and written the book on it). They also worked closely with Ethan Marcotte, who had written a ground-breaking article in May 2010 that pushed thinking forward around the idea of Responsive Design. (And later wrote the book on that.)

They also had Scott Jehl on their team, who worked extensively on the jQuery and jQuery mobile frameworks used across the Web.

The concept of Responsive Design spoke to us and our strategy of building a newspaper of the future that was truly built for our belief in a mobile future, where more people would be accessing us from a mobile or tablet device than from a traditional desktop.

We also have always found mobile sites, which group devices together and display a “mobile” version of the site, to be inferior and hard-to-manage. Sometimes they look good on your device, sometimes barely passable.

We wanted “one codebase to rule them all”: to allow our editors and producers to build the site once and have the site adapt itself based on what device you had at that moment. We knew that more and more devices would come on the market, and we wanted a site that would take that into account without our having to design for specific brands.

We found an all-star team of designers at Upstatement, who had already been converts to responsive design philosophies and were the perfect partner to execute the design concept and make the Boston work visually on all screen sizes. They did the detailed and deep thinking in order to design for 6 different resolutions:

  • 1200 px wide - For example, high res desktop browser
  • 960 px wide - For example, regular res desktop browser
  • 768 px wide - For example, horizontal iPad layout
  • 600 px wide - For example, vertical iPad layout
  • 480 px wide - For example, horizontal iPhone layout
  • 320 px wide - For example, vertical iPhone layout

Through javascript and other methods, the site detects your screen size and the features that you have available, such as a touchscreen and local storage capabilities.

The site then delivers the most appropriate layout and fetches images at a resolution that makes sense. If you’re on a phone, only a small image file is loaded; page components like the section header and navigation morph to leave more room for content; and clickable areas get larger given that you are using your finger instead of a mouse.

We believe that the options this will give us in the future will be limitless – knowing you are on a small screen, perhaps there are different types of content that we should highlight at the top of the page? As mobile advertising continues to grow up, different ads can be targeted to different screen sizes, placed in the optimal position for readability and response rate.

With this smart design, we realized that we were taking full advantage of the most popular app on any device – the Web browser.

So we also built offline reading capabilities into our My Saved feature, which allows users to tag stories to be saved for later reading or just to be able to have for quick access. I like to think of My Saved as a sort of playlist for my content, allowing me to queue it up for reading later, in a quick stream.

Our development team also built My Saved to work across devices, so that you can save stories on a desktop and then open the My Saved app on a phone or tablet. The stories in your queue automatically synchronize to that device, downloading to local storage for offline reading.Our engineering team decided to leverage the high-performance programming language of Erlang and an Mnesia database to handle the volume of calls. Erlang has seen a resurgence since Facebook used it to help power its high-volume chat feature.

With all these capabilities, we saw that we were building a Web app and saw opportunities for building a set of native applications as a lower priority. We still intend to launch native apps and are thinking through the capabilities that a native app would provide that would allow us to create something very targeted at the needs of an app user that does something very different.

We consider this just the beginning of the life of and are already planning to add features over the coming months that will continue to build on our goals of creating a site that does the tremendous journalism of The Boston Globe real justice.

Jeff Moriarty
VP, Digital Products
The Boston Globe

Oct 5

Reinventing Journalism: 10 lessons learned (in no particular order)


Executive Director Robert Rosethal lays out 10 lessons he’s learned from his time at The Center for Investigative Reporting.

CIR - Reinventing Journalism - 10 lessons learned (in no particular order)

Oct 2

Not many people in this world are as lucky as I’ve been. When I was in high school, I had an English teacher who told me I was a good writer, so I set out to become a writer myself. I’ve made my living as a writer for 70 years; been pretty good.

During World War II, I wrote for the Army newspaper, the Stars & Stripes. After the war, I went to work in radio and television, because I didn’t think anyone was paying enough attention to the written word. I worked with a lot of great people who had the voice for radio or they looked good on television — but someone had to write what they said, and that was me. When I went on television, it was as a writer. I don’t think of myself as a television personality: I’m a writer who reads what he’s written.

People have often told me I said the things they are thinking themselves. I probably haven’t said anything here that you didn’t already know, or have already thought: that’s what a writer does.

There aren’t too many original thoughts in the world. A writer’s job is to tell the truth. I believe that if all the truth were known about everything in the world, it would be a better place to live.

I know I’ve been terribly wrong sometimes, but I think I’ve been right more often than I’ve been wrong. I may have given the impression that I don’t care what anyone else thinks, but I do care; I care a lot.

I have always hoped that people will like what I’ve written. Being liked is nice, but it’s not my intent. I’ve spent my first fifty years trying to become well-known as a writer, and the next thirty trying to avoid being famous. I walk down the street now, or go to a football game, and people shout ‘Hey Andy!’ And I hate that.

I’ve done a lot of complaining here. But of all the things I’ve complained about, I can’t complain about my life. My wife Margie and I had four good kids; now there are grandchildren. I have two great-grandchildren, although they’re a little young for me to know how great they are.

And all this time, I’ve been paid to say what is on my mind on television. You don’t get any luckier than that.

This is a moment I’ve dreaded. I wish I could do this forever; I can’t though. But I’m not retiring. Writers don’t retire, and I’ll always be a writer.

A lot of you have sent me wonderful letters and said good things to me when you meet me in the street. I wasn’t always gracious about it — it’s hard to accept being liked.

I don’t say this often, but thank you. Although, if you see me in a restaurant, please let me eat my dinner.


60 Minutes commentator ANDY ROONEY, on his final regular broadcast.

Thanks, Andy.

(via inothernews)

Learning to Program for Journalists: The Epic HOWTO


  1. Is it stupid for me to even consider learning to code?  Won’t I have to spend years at it? Won’t I be a lot worse at it than a “real” computer programmer?
  2. Why bother?
  3. You’ve convinced me. How can I get started?
  4. What should my goals be?  What kind of projects should I consider?
  6. Where can I find your source code?  

Is it stupid for me to even consider learning to code?  Won’t I have to spend years at it? Won’t I be a lot worse at it than a “real” computer programmer?

Part of the reason I learned to code was that I kept running into journalists who had great ideas but were waiting around for a techie to rescue them.  But I didn’t recommend that they learn to program because, frankly, I wondered if that was the advice a jerk would give — was it really practical for a busy person with a day job to learn to program?  Or was it so time-consuming and expensive that it was like saying “let them eat cake”?  Well, my summer project was designed to take on that very question: how long does it take a busy person with a day job (and in my case a young family) to learn to code, using only their spare time?  

In my case, I was able to learn to code in 12 weeks, and at the end of those 8 weeks I was able to make simple but useful web apps.   My goal was to try to spend one hour each weekday practicing.  

Why bother?

I can’t tell you why *you* should bother, but I can tell you why *I* bother.  

  1. I don’t want anything to come between me and my ideas.  If I have an idea, I don’t want to wheedle some programmer into doing it, or persuade a funder to give me money to pay a programmer to do it.  I JUST WANT TO DO IT. 
  2. I want to learn to program because a lot of things piss me off
  3. I believe that we’ve reached a point where the journalism we have isn’t the journalism that we need to address serious problems we have not only as a country but as a species.  Our era doesn’t just call for computational journalism: it demands it.  
  4. It’s where the cool kids are. 
  5. It’s fun. 
  6. It’s a full-employment act. 

You’ve convinced me. How can I get started?

  1. Find a group to learn with. Don’t do it alone.  While you don’t need to spend cash on college courses (and I don’t really recommend it), I don’t recommend trying to learn exclusively on your own from websites or books.  The problem is this: you’re going to get stuck.  (No, really: you’re going to get stuck).  In that case, you need someone more experienced than you to help you get past the block.  
  2. Choose a programming language or framework to start with.  When you’re trying to find one of the groups above, you won’t find any named “We want to teach journalists to make awesome stuff on the web!”  Groups are organized around specific programming languages and technologies.  Choose a language or framework that A) is popular enough to have a user’s group nearly everywhere and B) is widely used on the web.   Good places to start: Python, and the web framework that goes with it, Django; Ruby, and the web framework that goes with it (Rails) or the language I started in, PHP (which is the grand old man of web scripting languages and has many frameworks to choose from).  Ruby and Python are the cool kids’ languages; PHP is not.  Choosing one will let you start looking for a group to join — you’re looking for [mycityname][programming language name] User’s Group.  Some groups have events or “let’s all read along through this book and do the exercises” programs.  Those are gold! I found the group that taught me, BostonPHP, via
  3. Commit to giving it an hour a day, weekdays, for the first eight weeks. Try to practice every day at the beginning and don’t take long breaks.  Breaks of a week or more mean you’ll forget things and need to start again at an earlier level.  
  4. Set up a “development environment” on your computer.  See here for instructions.  You can do this in an hour and have all the tools you need to get started Making Ze Stuffs.
  5. Get an account on Github.  Github is a site where you can upload your code and keep track of other coders and projects.  Do it even before you have something to upload. 

What should my goals be?  What kind of projects should I consider?

Look for the simplest possible project that you can do that is still useful, beautiful, or funny.   The limited skills you will have at first, along with your limited time, are a serious constraint.  Learning to do something beautiful and useful within those constraints is no less an art form than learning to write a sonnet, or jazz, both of which operate within constraints to create something beautiful. 

Look out for what I call “one trick pony” websites.  My favorites:  


I have many, many more, so I’ll either be adding to this list or creating a master resource post.  Subscribe to this tumblr, or follow me on twitter, where I am @lisawilliams, to get notified of new resources and additions to the Big List of Useful Learn To Code Stuff.  

Where can I find your source code?  

You can find my source code (including the source code for Journalism Conference Bingo) at

Google News Blog: Recognizing publishers’ standout content in Google News



Every day, news organizations and journalists around the world dedicate significant time and resources toward some of the most critical types of coverage: exceptional original reporting, deep investigative work, scoops and exclusives, and various special projects that quite clearly stand out. Today, during a Google News workshop at the Online News Association conference in Boston, we introduced a new content tag for the US edition that will help us better feature this “standout” content and give even more credit where credit is due.

If you put the tag in the HTML header of one of your articles, Google News may show the article with a ‘Featured’ label on the Google News homepage and News Search results. The syntax for this new tag is as follows:
<link rel=”standout” href=“” />
You can use the tag to point to your own content or to point to other sources with standout stories. Because the Standout tag belongs in the HTML header of your articles, it will only be seen by automated systems like Google News, not by direct readers of your articles themselves. 

Read more on the Google blog

Discouraging news from the world of journalism:


Narrative Science, a company affiliated with Northwestern University, has devised a new computer software that can write news articles in under a minute. The articles sound like they were written by humans, impressing robotics and language experts. “It’s as if a human wrote it.”

Except… a computer actually wrote it.

Narrative Science says it already has 20 customers using the technology.

Sep 2

New Digital Publishing Guidelines from The Washington Post


The Washington Post just published guidelines for digital publishing “meant to guide Washington Post journalism as we deliver news and information in a rapidly changing media environment.”

More here.

Sep 1

How to Become A Freelance Foreign Correspondent | Ebyline Blog


Of interest to people I know. wrote a really nice and thorough piece about 100 INTERVIEWS! Check it out.


I did a SUPER long interview for this, but it covers basically everything. Really great!

ONA Issues: Tweeting a job application


From Advancing the Story:

“You already know that prospective employers are looking for journalists with social media skills. The Statesman-Journal in Salem, Oregon, certainly is. Executive Editor Bill Church recently advertised an opening for a “talented reporter with high digital IQ.

” If…